Do you know what to do, when a flood hits? Do you know how to prepare your home and your family for a flood? It’s not as unlikely an occurrence as you may think. Almost any part of the world is susceptible to some sort of flooding and the dangers that come with it. Even normally dry areas can experience flooding due to an atypical heavy rainfall, for example, as these places would also lack the capacity to handle the excess water. The failure of a structure that holds water, e.g. a dam damaged by an earthquake, could also result in flooding of downstream areas. This is certainly an unlikely scenario, but it illustrates the possibility of a flood occurring even in dry locations. Below, I will share some information about floods and how to prepare your home and your family for this type of natural disaster. You will also find some basic tips for staying safe during a flood.
What Causes Floods?
It’s helpful to know the various causes of flooding, so you can always evaluate the potential of this natural disaster in your environment. Heavy rainfall is usually the cause of flooding. When the capacity of natural and man-made pathways for handling excess water is exceeded, flooding occurs. The excess water has nowhere to go. Other causes of flooding could be high waves in coastal regions caused by storms or other natural events out at sea. A tsunami, for example, a giant tidal wave can be caused by an earthquake miles away at sea. A high tide combined with high river levels can result in flooding in coastal regions. The structural failure of dam, as described above, is also a possibility.
Other factors contributing to flooding include:
- intensity and duration of rainfall
- capacity of water pathways to handle excesses
- ground cover
What Do Different Flood Alerts Mean?
A description of different severe weather alerts related to flooding can be found here.
In the case of a Flood Watch, the conditions are in place for flooding to happen where you live. It hasn’t happened yet, and it’s possible flooding will not occur, but you should be ready.
The most important alert to be aware of is a Flood Warning alert. A flood warning means that a flooding is already happening or will happen shortly. In a nut shell, when you hear the word “Warning”, you need to take action to protect yourself, your family and your home. In this case, you should move to the highest possible ground. If an evacuation is called for, proceed to do so. By all means, avoid having to walk or drive through flood waters.
Only 6 inches of moving water can knock a person over and move a car. 2 feet of water can carry off a car!
What Are Some Guidelines For Flood Safety?
As mentioned above, even up to 6 inches of flood water can be very dangerous. Avoid flood waters by seeking higher ground if at all possible. Flash floods, rapid flooding of low-lying areas, are the number 1 cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. Half of these occur when vehicles are driven into flood water!
When parking or camping during a storm or heavy rainfall, try to stay away from bodies of water like rivers or streams, as they can flood quickly without much warning.
What should you do, if you happen to be in a car, when flood waters rise around it? It depends on whether the water is moving or not. If the water is moving, you do not want to leave your car. The moving water can easily sweep you away. If the water is still, it may be safe to abandon your car to seek higher ground.
The video below put out by the State of Missouri answers several questions about flood safety, when driving.
How Can You Prepare Your Home And Your Family?
Above all, have a plan in place, before a natural disaster like a flood takes place. Discuss the following questions with your family members, and make sure you’re all on the same page.
- How will we get to safe places depending on the emergency? For example, in the case of a flood, find out how to get to higher ground or the highest point of a building.
- What is the best evacuation route for where I live?
- How will we communicate with each other? Consider that phone and internet services may not be available during an emergency.
- How and where can we meet after an emergency?
Stock up on important emergency medical supplies, non-perishable foods, water, flashlights and batteries.
If you live in a higher risk area for flooding, flood insurance may be a good idea. You can find more information about insurance at the National Flood Insurance Program website.
How Do I Know My Flood Risk?
Enter you address at this fema site to pull up a flood map for your area. Here is a document explaining the flood map. The map will indicate the level of risk for your location. If you’re in a high-risk area, there’s a 25% chance that you will experience flooding over a 30-year period. Flood insurance is actually mandatory for these areas. In moderate-to-low-risk areas, flood insurance is not required but recommended. Statistics show that 20% of flood insurance claims come from areas like this.